Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Southern Cross: Character Design Competition

My next novel, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, is a crossover homage to things comic book, pulp, sci-fi and noir—pretty much all the genres I dig—and the central character here is Jacob Curtiss... who moonlights as superhero Southern Cross.

Given the comic book nature of the romp, which will be published later this year by Perfect Edge Books, and the fact it's partially illustrated, I decided to continue the exploration of the comic artist angle by setting up a competition

This comp is open to anybody with a pencil, and the 5 winners will get copies of the novel once it's published. 

The key point is free-range interpretation, something that's important to me. I like the idea of disparate visions of the same person — it's the way American comic books, after all, work in the real world. Bryan Hitch's perception of Captain America in 2009 was far different from Jim Steranko's in 1969.

We're getting some great entries only days after beginning (the comp closes on 30 June), including the hilarious caricature of a man-and-his-dog (above) by Claudia Everest and the more Iron Man-inflected style by Craig Bruyn (below, at bottom)

One of the artists, Tomomi Sarafov (she did this gal-version of Southern Cross, along with another piece), wrote about the process here at her blog.

Anyway, if anyone else is at all inspired, you can hit this link and find out what the competition is all about.

By the way, for those of you (a) with long memories, and (b) Australian, this isn't the first Southern Cross superhero character. I've recently been chatting with esteemed veteran comic creator Tad Pietrzykowski who nicely filled in the gaps.

"Yes, there are at least three other Southern Crosses out there. Mine [the Golden Age Southern Cross by Tad, with Glenn Lumsden], Dave de Vries' Southern Squadron, and one at Cult Fiction Australia that I don't know the status of. Under the copyright law, no one can own the name "Southern Cross" exclusively. We can all retain copyright on our own individual Southern Crosses—artwork, logo, et cetera—as long as none of us try to impinge upon anyone else's version... which none of us are interested in doing, so it's all good." 

I guess Australia doesn't have too many iconographic logos to stick on the chest of union suits. Hey, wait... maybe I should've gone with Captain Vegemite.?

Anyway, I initially created my version of S.C. in high school in 1981/82, when I still had great aspiration to be a comic book artist/writer and mostly frustrated that Marvel Comics didn't have an Australian superhero. After procrastinating, I finally sent a concept design (and pitch) to Stan Lee in the mid '80s—after which Stan got his secretary to write back that he loved the idea and was hand-passing this on to then-Marvel editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco... who sadly was not so inspired in the follow-up letter, knocking back the character in no uncertain terms (if politely).

At which time I stuck him in a drawer and sat on the character... until last year, when I started dreaming up a novel that pays homage to 1960s silver age Marvel stuff (Heropa) and decided to resurrect him the bugger.

But until the book comes out (around September?), it's definitely worthwhile exploring the other incarnations of an essential cultural icon—cast in tights—and seeing how different people explore the superhero medium from an Aussie and/or foreign perspective.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

BIG ON JAPAN: A Fistful of International Artists Croon The Country's Cultural Praises

Recently, I've been doing my best to mimic a literary ostrich since I've had my head buried deep inside assembly of the next novel.

Trouble is I have trouble picturing a big bird with a hardback and a pair of spectacles, wrapped in Harris tweed.

And I say assembly, because this brute not only deconstructs 1930s detective noir/pulp and 1960s Marvel comic book lore, but renovates them together as a conjoined tome over 100,000 words in length — stitched together by 35 images from 28 artists. 

It's the way comic books, after all, work in the real world.

Bryan Hitch's perception of Captain America in 2009 was far different from Jim Steranko's in 1969. Then compare and contrast John Buscema's chunky-thug idea of Conan the Barbarian in 1980 with the lithe, laddish figure originally put out by Barry (Windsor) Smith a decade earlier in 1970.

But now I'm geeky nitpicking. If I haven't lost you already, I swear I'll try harder, there are some pretty pictures still to come, and a bunch of other people take the verbal reins.

For now, suffice to say, this train of thought (the wayward one about comic book art) inspired me to ask artists from Australia (Paul Mason), the UK (Harvey Finch and Andrew Chiu — see picture at right), Italy (Giovanni Ballati), Russia (Saint Yak), Spain (Javier 'JG' Miranda and Carlos Gomez), Canada (Fred Rambaud), Mexico (Rodolfo Reyes), Chile (Juan Andres Saavedra — see picture above), the Philippines (Hannah Buena) and Argentina (Maan House), amongst others in Japan and America, to get involved drawing characters and events from the book — and then let their hair down for a rambunctious tête-à-tête together here.

All in all?

Putting together the novel has been like taking Lego and Meccano and making the pieces function together as a futuristic-retro superhero romp that mixes and matches 1930s Art Deco architectural lines with the gung-ho Soviet formalist propaganda style, twisted into '60s pop art sentiment and the huge influence of Jack Kirby. 

Anyway, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? will be published via Perfect Edge Books some time around September, but what I'd like to share with you over the next couple of months of this column are the insights and opinions of some of the fascinating, talented and truly cool visual artists I've had the opportunity to touch base with — while attempting to keep the bulk of these within Flash in Japan's obvious perimeters: focused on, well, the Japanese archipelago.

If interested, you can read Part 1 of this interview @ FORCES OF GEEK.